The wicket was easier for strokeplay on this occasion. Mitchell Starc, too, had an off day. But if established batsmen give their wickets away and one of them repeatedly gets out to the very first ball he faces, a team cannot expect to win.
India, too, couldn’t have their way in spite of being in a strong position at one stage. Their set batters wasted their starts, while Suryakumar Yadav was dismissed for nought off the very first ball for the third time in a row as India lost the final ODI to Australia by 21 runs at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Wednesday.
Australia’s 269, after winning the toss and opting to bat first, wasn’t at all a match-winning total. They had no other tearaway pacer to support Starc either, but the spin duo of Adam Zampa (4/45) and Ashton Agar (2/41) stood up and exploited the conditions wonderfully that helped Australia seal the series 2-1.
This was India’s first bilateral series loss at home in four years. And it’s the gritty Australians again who ended India’s dominance at home to become the top-ranked team in the ICC ODI rankings.
Swing wasn’t on offer for Starc, India’s tormentor-in-chief in the first two ODIs, as Shubman Gill and captain Rohit Sharma had no problems in unleashing strokes early on. The opening duo departed in quick succession after hammering 65 in nine overs.
Virat Kohli and KL Rahul, who was promoted to No.4, then rotated the strike well during their smoothly sailing partnership which helped India keep things well under control. That, till Rahul went for a needless shot to be taken in the deep off Zampa’s bowling.
It wasn’t a bad idea by the Indian team management to send in Axar Patel at No.5, keeping the left-hand righthand combination in mind. But miscommunication with Kohli led to Axar’s run-out dismissal as Australia started to make their way back into the contest.
Hardik Pandya, after a fine showing with the ball, exhibited his fluency with the bat too as India were gradually regaining control. That’s when Kohli threw it away.
Man of the Series Mitchell Marsh during his run-a-ball 47, top-scoring for Australia in the final ODI, in Chennai on Wednesday. PTI photo
The ball did grip off the surface, especially when Agar pitched it in the right areas. Kohli wasn’t at all reading Agar too well, though he had hit the left-arm spinner over extra cover for a six. But when he tried that stroke again, he wasn’t able to execute it well.
Ignoring the warning signs, Kohli re-attempted it only to hole out to long-off. The Australians then had more reasons to be happy as Surya — coming in at No.7 — was dismissed off the very next ball.
Those back-to-back wickets in Agar’s final over turned out to be the game-changer. Thereafter, Zampa, a consistent performer against India, responded to his captain’s call as he beat both Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja with a flatter trajectory to account for both. And India eventually folded for 248 with five balls to spare.
For the Australians, no one could score a fifty with Mitchell Marsh (47) top-scoring again. Some of their batters too gifted their wickets away to Kuldeep Yadav, but the application from their Indian counterparts on such a surface was worse.
India next play an ODI series in August when they tour the West Indies. Prior to that, Surya’s role in the ODI scheme of things has to be thought out by the team management instead of just focusing on giving him “a longer run”. Three successive first-ball dismissals do hint at technical flaws, which Rohit and head coach Rahul Dravid need to understand.
Suryakumar Yadav is the sixth Indian batter to register three consecutive ducks in ODIs. Sachin Tendulkar (1994), Anil Kumble (1996), Zaheer Khan (2003-04), Ishant Sharma (2010-11) and Jasprit Bumrah (2017- 2019) are the others to have done so